Learned Penric has been living together with his embedded demon Desdemona since more than ten years in the World of Five Gods. They are an established team, know how to work with each other, having survived several adventures – as described in “Penric’s Demon” or “Penric and the Shaman” – and probably don’t expect many surprises.
This time, Penric travels undercover on behalf of the Duke of Adria to the mediterranean country Cedonia in order to win over famous general Arisaydia. As a personal mission, he develops a relationship to the general’s widowed sister Nikys. The undercover part didn’t last long, and the whole mission seems to go downhills, develops into a race and rescue mission.
I found the first novella in this series better, maybe because it was more surprising and more full of banters between Pen and Des. But as part of the series, it is worthwhile reading, as it expands the details and backgrounds of spiritual and theological reasoning once again. Also, the relationship gets a new dimension, when Pen starts to fall in love: How would you feel when a couple of elderly women watch and comment on your advances? I just love the complexity of their characters, and besides of that Bujold’s story telling is excellent.
You don’t need to read the novels in the series or other novellas from Penric, but I recommend reading the first installation “Penric’s Demon” for a general introduction to the main character’s background, because it would be too confusing otherwise. Note that there is already a followup novella “Mira’s Last Dance” which picks up this story and characters exactly where they where left off. That’s why I can forgive the small cliffhanger and open ended finish of this novella.
Subterranean publisher does a very fine job of producing dead tree editions of this series. I’d like to have it just to place it in my bookshelf besides my copies of Curse of Chalion and Paladin of Souls. We only have to wait a year after each publication, to get it in this preferred form. So, if you want to collect the series, it is very worthwhile and constantly expanded.